Congresswoman-elect Mary Peltola will be sworn in Sept. 13 to serve the remaining four months of the late Rep. Don Young’s term following the certification late last week of Alaska’s first ranked choice election, her campaign spokesperson said Monday.
The swearing-in ceremony, making her the state’s first Democratic U.S. House member in nearly 50 years, is scheduled the day after the House reconvenes from its summer recess.
“We don’t anticipate any delays to the swearing in,” Josh Wilson, a spokesperson for Peltola, stated in an email.
Peltola steps into spotlight of national political stage
The Republican opponents Peltola defeated, Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III, have five days after the Sept. 2 certification to request a recount and 10 days to challenge the results in court. But both have posted social media messages congratulating Peltola on her victory and offered no indications of contesting the outcome.
However, Palin and Begich on Monday revived their demands that the other drop out of the November general election, when the same three candidates face each other again (along with Libertarian Chris Bye who received 0.62% of the primary vote). The demands are based on the presumption a single Republican will fare better head-to-head against Peltola, especially since the special election was largely characterized by Palin and Begich attacking each other while the Democratic candidate was perceived as running a generally positive campaign.
Palin initiated the skirmish with a news conference announced with little advance notice, which Alaska Public Media noted “sent reporters scrambling to her back yard on the shores of Lake Lucille in Wasilla.”
“Sorry Nick, I never retreat, I reload,” Palin said, repeating a variation of a controversial soundbite she’s invoked for various political purposes over the years.
“He represents the good old boys network, the establishment and yes, the liberals, the liberals in the Democrat Party,” she said, referring to Begich. “Only a Democrat sympathizer would selfishly stay in this race after getting thumped three times, three times in a row by his GOP opponent, just to enable a Democrat to hold the Alaskan people’s seat in the United States House of Representatives.”
Begich reiterated he has no intention of withdrawing.
“Ranked choice voting showed that Palin simply doesn’t have enough support from Alaskans to win an election and her performance in the (special election) was embarrassing as a former governor and vice presidential candidate,” he said in a prepared statement. “Pollsters have been telling us for months that Sarah Palin cannot win a statewide race because her unfavorable rating is so high. These same polls have consistently shown that Alaskans are looking for a less polarizing alternative to Mary Peltola.”
Monday was the official deadline for candidates to withdraw from the general election and for another candidate to replace them on the ballot in the state’s new nonpartisan top-four primary election process. But a candidate withdrawing after the deadline can still impact voting, as happened when undeclared candidate Al Gross dropped out after the deadline after finishing third in the special election primary for the U.S. House race, resulting in only Peltola, Palin and Begich appearing on the final ballot.
The overwhelming assessment of analysts from all political spectrums in the wake of the special election is Palin’s chances of winning via the ranked choice process are greatly diminished due to her high negativity ratings among voters.
Peltola had 40.2% of the 192,536 votes cast in the final tally, Palin 31.3% and Begich 28.5%. Peltola then prevailed over Palin 51.48%-48.52% once second-choice ballots were tallied, with half of voters ranking Begich first picking Palin, nearly 29% opting for Peltola and about 20% not ranking a second-choice candidate.
Among those asserting the outcome bodes poorly for Palin’s general election chances is the conservative news site Alaska Watchman, whose coverage is generally favorable toward candidates endorsed by former president Donald Trump, including Palin. But two opinion columns were posted Sunday and Monday, one urging conservatives to vote strategically in November by ranking Begich first and Palin second, the other declaring “Palin should quit so Alaska can elect a Republican to U.S. House.”
“Her persona on the debate stage probably turned some people off,” Carol Carmen, Republican Party District Chair for District 29 in the Mat-Su Valley, wrote in the latter column. “Additionally, Palin’s supporters are aggressive on social media, with many trolls in attack-mode against anyone who supported Begich. Her entire social media campaign was negative. All of that came to mind when I looked at the data and saw Palin’s negativity rating.”
Begich’s potential for general election victory were highlighted in an update Sunday by the polling/pundit website Five Thirty Eight, which predicts an 80% chance of a Republican winning the race and a 43% chance of Begich being that candidate. Conversely, the Cook Political Report, another widely cited prediction site, moved its forecast from “safe Republican” to “toss up” following the special election tally.
Peltola, meanwhile, spent the initial days after her victory resuming her campaign and posting frequently on social media, with most posts focusing on fishing-related issues plus a few on preserving abortion rights, workplace issues, and fundraising efforts. She also released her first television ad for the general election, focusing on abortion rights, although they’re guaranteed under Alaska’s Constitution and thus not directly affected by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.